The Seven Sins of Greenwashing
Green-wash (green'wash', -wôsh') - verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service
TerraChoice's list of the Seven Sins of Greenwashing:
1. Sins of the Hidden Trade-off: a narrow and incomplete set of attributes
2. Sin of No Proof: unsubstantiated environmental claims
3. Sin of Vagueness: poorly defined or too broad claims; i.e. "all-natural"
4. Sin of Worshipping False Labels: a green impression through words or images where none exists
5. Sin of Irrelevance: meaningless claims; i.e. CFC-free
6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: i.e. organic cigarettes
7. Sin of Fibbing: simply false
The 2007 list had only six sins. Things, it seems, have gotten worse and a seventh sin, the Sin of Worshipping False Labels, emerged in the 2009 survey.
Visit the site to see the list in greater detail and much, much more. For example, statistics on the growth of greenwashing, as well as the rate of green advertising and eco-labeling, are pretty astonishing. "In the 2009 report, over 98 percent of the 2,219 products surveyed in North America committed at least one of the Sins of Greenwashing," which means even the good guys are making some pretty egregious errors.
There's also a handy chart of eco-labels available to North American consumers and a description of products of special risk such as health and beauty, cleaning and kids products. The report also details its research methodology, which appears to me to be sound, and there are suggestions on what consumers and marketers can do. It's worth checking out.
Become a greenwashing sleuth. As the report encourages, "Consumers need to continue supporting greener products. Each of us has enormous power to shape the marketplace. The worst result of greenwashing would be if we were to give up."